Celery Kimchi


Charles would love it!” was one of my first thoughts when I tasted this new version of kimchi. First of all, I know that Charles (my blogging friend from 5 Euro Food) loves kimchi and Korean food. Moreover, we have recently had a most interesting conversation about celery (don’t laugh!), which Charles adores and I only start discovering. I am sure that someone has already tried making celery kimchi, but I swear it was my own idea (although maybe Hyosun’s kind suggestion of a Korean celery side dish has put me on the right tracks…). Whatever was the trigger, when I saw celery stalks in my fridge and two containers of kimchi above them (yes, I have become a notorious kimchi maker quite a long time ago), I thought “why don’t I “kimchi” the celery too?”.

The result is stunningly good. The celery has stayed crunchy, refreshing, but tougher than radish in kimchi. Its anise aroma, instead of disappearing, has curiously doubled, so even after a couple of days, the not fully mature kimchi is already particularly strong. (UPDATE: After 5 days the celery aroma started to weaken and sadly the kimchi started to lose its appeal…). I suppose this is only for the celery fans and I wouldn’t advise it to those who hate anise aroma either. For me, who only starts to discover the magic world of celery, this kimchi is a revelation and I am already making place for an additional, constant container in my fridge.

As a reminder, kimchi (김치), is a Korean method to ferment vegetables with garlic, chili and some other ingredients. Chinese (Napa) cabbage and daikon (white radish) kimchi are the most popular, but I think my all-time favourite is cucumber kimchi, I have discovered thanks to Charles’s suggestion. Kimchi has a very powerful smell, but once you taste it and love it, the smell will never be associated with anything unpleasant. It is spicy, hot, sour and, like most fermented vegetables, very healthy. High in fiber, low in calories and fat, it is packed with vitamin C (thanks to the fermentation) and carotene. It also contains several other vitamins, helps digestion, is said to prevent certain cancers… Its importance in the Korean cuisine cannot be compared to anything in any European food culture I know. Apart from being served as a side dish, kimchi is used in fried rice, stew and soups.

I fill my kimchi stock regularly, so that I have at least one kind in the fridge. It’s a perfect side dish and a quick way to add vegetables to any meal, especially when one doesn’t feel like cooking anything more or even making a salad. I also use it often (the cabbage version) in fried rice (see the recipe here) which thanks to kimchi’s strong flavours and its “sauce”, doesn’t require any additional seasoning. I haven’t tried it yet in soups, but am planning to do it soon.

The traditional, whole cabbage kimchi requires some dexterity (or maybe I am too clumsy?) and my three experiments were not fully successful. Its lazy version I prepare, the radish kimchi and the (also lazy) cucumber kimchi are ridiculously easy and can only get better in time, while we adapt the seasonings, the hotness level and the fermentation time to our palate. In short, if you like hot flavours and garlic, do try kimchi one day. Hyosun from Korean Bapsang is my main inspiration in Korean cookery and my radish and cucumber kimchi are based on her easy-to-follow recipes. The easy cabbage kimchi recipe comes from Shu Han’s Mummy I can cook!. I have based my celery version on radish kimchi. Thank you, Hyosun and Shu Han, for introducing me to the world of kimchi.

If celery is not your cup of tea, I propose more crowd-pleasing versions of kimchi (nowadays my chili powder is darker, hence the difference in hues):

White Radish Kimchi (Kkakdugi)
Easy Cabbage Kimchi
Easy Cucumber Kimchi (Oi Kimchi)


UPDATE: Contrary to the above kimchi, the celery version was excellent only for the first several days. After about 5 days it started to get too pungent and strong. I advise eating it quickly! This is an ephemeral kimchi 🙂

Use younger celery stalks which do not require peeling (i.e. which don’t have “threads”). The process will be quicker. I find younger celery bunches in organic shops, but of course it depends on the country you live in.

Hyosun Ro’s and traditional Korean recipes call for raw shrimp or sometimes raw oyster as the fermentation enhancer, but since I can only get frozen shrimp, I thought it would be safer to replace it with additional fish sauce.

Wear gloves if you manipulate kimchi with your hands (apart from the smelly side there is lots of chili in it).

If you taste your kimchi and it seems very bitter, leave it to ferment for additional 24 hours. I did it with my radish kimchi and miraculously the bitterness disappeared!

Preparation: 1 hour + min. 2 days, but 2 weeks are optimal; the kimchi you see above was one week old and improved every day

Ingredients (I adapted the ingredients to my very small “test” batch):

500 g/about 1 lb rather young celery stalks (daikon) cut into 3 cm (a bit more than 1 inch) pieces

3 heaped tablespoons Korean dried chili (my kimchi wasn’t very hot, just hot, but it depends on the chili’s hotness)

1 flat teaspoon grated or crushed garlic

1/2 flat teaspoon grated fresh ginger

chopped green onions (or European chives)

salt (I used about 2 flat tablespoons)

1/2 teaspoon glutinous rice flour

4 tablespoons fish sauce or (as advised by Hyosun Ro):

2 tablespoons finely minced saeujeot (salted shrimp)

1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 raw shrimp (ground)

Prepare the rice paste combining the rice flour with about 20 ml water. Let the mixture simmer until it thickens.

Sprinkle the celery with salt and leave them for 30-40 minutes. (They will release some water but won’t soften like radish does).

Put the celery into a big container (with a lid) and combine well with the remaining ingredients.

Taste and if you think it’s not salty enough, add some fish sauce (Hyosun Ro says it should be just a bit too salty).

Cover with the lid, press with your hands (wear gloves!) to remove the air from between the celery pieces and leave for two days to ferment in room temperature. (Mine has fermented for three days because I prefer it stronger).

Put into the fridge after two days or more. In general it gets stronger every day.

You can refrigerate it only to make it cold and eat it straight away after the fermentation process or you can wait several days or weeks to see how the flavours change and at which stage you prefer it (Hyosun Ro says it requires two weeks to develop the best flavours and I totally agree).

You can keep kimchi in the fridge for several weeks.

45 Replies to “Celery Kimchi”

  1. I must say, I have paid very close attention to the taste of our celery and I’m still hard pressed to find an anise flavour. But then again I eat A LOT of celery (it is my Go To snack) so maybe I can’t taste it anymore; I read once that eating celery takes more calories than the stalks themselves! My kind of snack.
    I tried Kimchi at the Korean BBQ place we met Charles at in Paris in September and it was compelling. I will have to try making your favourite with cucumbers when I can collect the more unusual ingredients.
    Why not use frozen raw shrimp? I have been told that since we are so far from any (ocean) shrimp fishing that frozen is fresher than unfrozen in brine, since they flash freeze right on the ships in most cases. I find frozen scallops incredibly fresh and sweet that the brined versions can’t even come close to.

    1. Hi, Eva. You have misunderstood me. I eat only frozen shrimp and frozen squid too (I have no access to fresh although I’m lucky to have fresh scallops all the time), but I would never use them to ferment. I think it might be dangerous to use thawed shrimp to ferment and I know that Koreans use fresh seafood to do this… (The shrimp would be here the fermentation enhancer as it ferments itself…).
      Kelly from Inspired Edibles told me that US and Canadian celery has much less taste than the European one, so this might be a question of the variety because I cannot believe that such a gourmet as you wouldn’t feel the overwhelming anise aroma 🙂
      Even many vegetables are healthier when used frozen… because they are transformed as quickly as possible.

  2. Not a big fan of celery but love kimchi. I should give one of your other kimchi’s a try.
    You have fish sauce and shrimp written twice in the ingredients.
    I’ve heard of people eating celery and peanut butter. I tried once, won’t try again:)

    1. Thanks a lot, Mr. Three-Cookies. Actually I think it’s the first time it’s not a mistake (you know I am always very grateful for your observations). Fish sauce is only once (it’s written “fish sauce or…”) because there is a choice between only fish sauce or a mixture of fish sauce, raw shrimp and salted shrimp. I always opt for only fish sauce because it’s easier, but I’m sure Hyosun’s version is more genuine and flavoursome.
      Haha, I wanted to say “wasn’t it Ping?” (she told me about it) and now I see she has confirmed it!
      I hope you will enjoy making (and eating) kimchi!

  3. Hey! I eat celery with peanut butter … and love it!
    I know I’ll love this version of the kimchi altho that looks like it’ll blow my earwax off! 🙂
    I’ve been making my own kimchi for awhile as well and have been using our local fermented shrimp/krill in place of raw seafood. That takes care of the shrimp and fish sauce parts.

    1. Thank you so much, Ping. Haha! When I read Mr. Three-Cookies’s comment I knew it was you (you told me about it recently when I presented stir-fried squid and celery), but thanks for confirming 😉 I still must try it.
      Actually the Korean chili powder I can get is only slightly hot, so I can put tons of it and the kimchi is still medium hot. I would prefer a hotter version but I’m already glad I can get this one. The only thing I found here is Thai shrimp paste, but I’m not sure if it’s ok to use in kimchi, so I stick to fish sauce.
      OK, I have just been in the kitchen. Tried celery with peanut butter. It’s extra-ordi-nary!!! You will be responsible for the ten kilos I will take thanks to this amazing discovery!! (I will put some chili paste on it next time 😉 or maybe sprinkle with sesame seeds… Oh, my… It’s really addictive, I must go back and take another stalk!). I’m completely converted. Thanks a lot for this unusual snack idea!

  4. Sissi, you are on a celery roll! I love it and I love kimchi too so I’m in. I simply have to substitute fennel bulb for celery here 😉 and I will get the same splendid anise flavour… yum! What a great idea to roll with celery for this one and your ingredient list is lip smacking good (I tell you fish sauce and ginger, the combination brings tears to my eyes…so, so, good) – definitely time for lunch! :).

    1. Thank you so much, Kelly. Yes, I buy a big bunch of celery every week and every time I want to prepare something, I wonder how I can include the celery 😉 I have already made some great salads (advised by Charles), but the kimchi was the craziest of all the ideas! The celery’s aroma starts to be a big mystery every day… Charles says it doesn’t smell anise to him but he buys celery in France (where I buy most of the celery and anyway, the Swiss one is the same!) or maybe he buys the non-organic, quickly growing one??? (I always buy organic and even though I’m not convinced if organic is always better, many vegetables and fruits have a stronger and sharper aroma and/or taste; yesterday I bought some organic mandarines and compared them to non-organic from the previous batch; the difference in aroma was huge!). Many people in Europe hate celery because of the anise smell which (you are completely right) reminds me of fennel (which is also hated for the same reasons).
      PS Thank you once more for making my carrot cake (and congratulations for the creative version and for the incredible topping!) and for all the kind words you said about me. I am in a perfect mood since yesterday!

      1. You are most welcome Sissi and you deserve every word! I’m glad it put a smile on your face – the cake was delicious! I am behind in replying to all the nice comments I received… I hope to get to that ce soir – hugs.

  5. haha my friend HATES celery, I’m neutral but have always been trying to convince her to like it. and here we have on one page, so many celery lovers.

    hehe you and charles, proper food geeks.

    1. Shu Han, there are so many people in Europe who hate celery, chili, garlic, fish sauce… This kimchi might be a real punishment for many people I know! (Yes, we talk a lot about food with Charles!)

  6. I am amazed how you can take the simplest of ingredients and transform them into a colourful and flavourful dish like this one. I don’t very much about Korean cuisine so I’ll just keep an eye out for more recipes until I find one that really catches my interest.

  7. Another celery dish, how healthy and wonderful! I’ve never thought about making it into kimchi, though my Mom does this side dish where she boils the celery slightly, then dose it with Vietnamese sweet and spicy sauce, very very addictive!

    1. Thank you so much, Jeno. Your mum’s celery dish sounds great. I will ask you for details soon (or maybe you will post it one day 😉 ).

    1. Thank you so much, Barb. You are so sweet, but I wasn’t very happy with this photo (I wanted to make all the kimchi photos with the same dark background and in the same dish though 😉 ). I hope you can try making kimchi soon. It’s very healthy and delicious (it smells a lot though, I warn you!).

  8. You are really, really creative! I’ve never heard of or seen celery kimchi, so you can own this my friend! I still remember the celery discussion. In fact, the other day I was using celery in a dish and ate have of a stalk, thinking about what it tasted like. WOW! It’s not as boring as I have always thought it was! It does have a little bit of fennelish flavor. I need to start experimenting with celery more. Since I am a kimchi lover, this looks like a great place to start. Great recipe Darlin!

    1. Thank you so much, MJ. I haven’t heard about it either (I even looked on internet), but I’m sure I’m not the only one. People try to kimchi everything 😉 You are starting to solve the celery aroma mystery 😉 Maybe it’s a question of habit, but every time I bring a bunch and start cutting the stalks, it smells anise in the whole kitchen! It’s not the end of celery adventures because I like it more and more (and since Eva said that it is ridiculously low-calorie and I know it’s healthy, the celery will be another light “filler” in many recipes together with courgette and cucumber).

  9. This looks super hot/spicy! Maybe next time I will mix a few celery pieces into my usual cabbage (plenty), carrot, daikon (less) kimchi.

    1. Hi, Kiki. Alas the chili I could get is only medium hot (or I would say slightly hot only), so I can put tons of it and it’s still not very hot… I feel that the fermentation process+garlic make my kimchi hotter than the chili 😉

  10. Haha, hi Sissi – ok… I would definitely love this. Celery, but “kimchified”. I can imagine the crunch it must retain. You’ve made me very eager to try this. I’ve never had much success with kimchi in the past. I’ve tried making it ~3 times and each time wasn’t that successful. The one time I did get it partly right, the colour was completely off, even though the flavour was fairly ok.

    By the way, in the 5th paragraph of your recipe you mention pressing with your hands to “remove the air from between the radish cubes”, but I guess you mean celery stalks, right?

    It’s curious what you say in your comment above with Eva. I have to admit… personally I’ve never considered celery being “anise-y”, because actually I’m not a big fan of anise at all, but I’ve always been eating celery my whole life. You make me want to buy a stick right now to eat so I can “analyze” the flavour. I guess maybe I just never really thought about it much!

    1. Thank you so much, Charles. If I wasn’t worried about the post office throwing it away, I would send you a batch of my celery kimchi. The celery didn’t soften like the cabbage or like the daikon, so it still stays crunchy and a bit tough. Have you tried making the Chinese cabbage kimchi? First of all, I have never managed to make the whole cabbage (I mean half cabbage) traditional kimchi properly, so I have abandoned it and only make the lazy version which is very easy and always works. Sometimes, when the cabbage is not very fresh, it takes a dull colour. The easiest kimchi is radish and cucumber kimchi. Try one of these. I cannot imagine them not working (my recipe, I mean Hyosun’s recipe, is foolproof).
      Thank you for letting me know. As I have mentioned this recipe is a copy of the radish kimchi recipe, so I have just copied the instructions and haven’t deleted everything. I have already corrected it. Thanks a lot!
      For me the celery smells so anise-y that when I start cutting it and washing, it smells anise in the whole kitchen. It’s the reason why many people hate celery actually! (But accept celeriac which has a weaker and more neutral smell).

      1. Heh, actually, I’ve always found celeriac much more intense in flavour, although sometimes I can find a really strong stalk of celery, so I guess it can vary a lot depending on your experience!

        1. It must be a question of habit I guess… I have been eating celeriac all my life (although the raw one, in remoulade, is quite recent too, and celery is more recent. I must taste the British celery when I go to UK next time because you seem to specialise in good celery.

  11. The latest Korean recipes seem quite complex with ingredients I don’t have (a common complaint from me these days as I’m clearing out and NOT buying anything new for my pantry). Maybe the pork/beef bulgogi rice bowl one day. 🙂

    1. This is the problem with Asian cuisines. European cuisines don’t require as many different basic seasonings, but if one wants to cook ethnic cuisine from a new Asian country, new products are necessary. Of course the number you buy depends on how much you already have (the only products I needed to buy to cook Korean was gochujang and the special Korean chili powder, but I cook Japanese, so sake and sesame oil are a staple). Frankly, I think sesame oil and sake (or Korean rice wine) are obligatory in the pork/beef bulgogi bowl. Otherwise you will not obtain the typical Korean flavours… Have you considered the Korean pancake? It’s the only Korean dish without Korean ingredients if I remember. I loved it. Maybe hop to Hyosun’s blog (the link is above). She has much more Korean dishes and maybe they some require less ingredients.

  12. I always thought I had a pretty well stocked pantry (certainly based on the number of bottles of herbs and spices that fall off the shelves when I go rooting around looking for them) but then I run across a different ethnic cuisine and I get frustrated.

    Yesterday I cooked an Indian dish (pea, potato and paneer cheese samosas) and used 9 spices, not counting fresh coriander which I don’t like so I don’t use, or fresh ginger, garlic and onion which are staples.

    I doubt a lot of people have both garam masala and chaat masala in their pantries … but I do. 🙂 Though I took out the cajun spice bottle, which looks the same as the garam masala one, when I took my mise en place picture. I replaced it when I made the dish, but still, I had that plus my fajita mix and taco seasoning mix bottles rattling around. I bought the 2 masalas but made the other 3 from scratch.

    Here’s the post in case you’re interested.


    That’s why a dish has to REALLY impress me before I go out and bring home another half dozen new ingredients. 🙂

    1. I totally understand, but I am one of those who have chaat masala and garam masala and dozens of spices from different parts of the world… Dry spices have always taken a huge space in my kitchen. When I go to an Indian shop I have 99% of the spices! (Some are never used…).
      The only kind of seasoning I limit myself with are those which require refrigeration after opening (luckily sake, mirin, sesame oil, soy sauce etc. do not require it so I still have some space in the fridge).
      I don’t think my Korean dishes look very impressive, I’m not a good photograph and my compact camera has big limits, but I’m sure Hyosun’s dishes are much more attractive 😉
      When I started to cook Japanese it took me a long time to decide to start this cuisine because not only it required new ingredients I didn’t have, but moreover, they are much much more expensive here than Chinese or Thai or Indian stuff. I am lucky I finally decided to start cooking Japanese, but as you say there must be a trigger. For me the trigger was the Korean cuisine was a Korean restaurant and the indecent price they charged us for very delicious but cheap to prepare food. Then I decided to make it.
      It was also the case with kimchi. It’s horribly expensive (a tiny plate costs as much as a glass of wine here), so even buying the necessary ingredients and using them only a couple of times a year costs me much less than going to a restaurant which is often a rip off.
      I don’t know if you have tasted Korean cuisine, but it’s very garlicky and hot (of course if you cook at home, the hotness level depends on you entirely), so I have some friends who love it and some who hate it for the same reasons 😉 It also has a strong sesame oil aroma which is not pleasant for some people (I don’t discourage you, but there might be some risks…).

      1. (Hugs my fellow spice addict.)

        Asafoetida and mango powder … what the heck! I substitute garlic and onion powder for the first and lemon juice for the last. The world’s not going to end.

        I have had to go through and dump any spices not used in the last couple of years as they are past stale so I’m hesitant to buy new ones. Unfortunately I’ve never been to a Korean restaurant nor do I know anyone who is/cooks Korean food who would have introduced me to the cuisine unlike Indian food or even Japanese food which I was exposed to in university.

        And I’ve just learned something else new today … mirin, sesame oil and soy sauce don’t require refrigeration? I’m concerned about the sesame oil as it can go rancid if not used in a timely fashion like tahini or peanut butter. I even refrigerate my rice wine vinegar and fish sauce.

        I’m not discouraged by all the ingredients in Korean food just not ready to jump in the deep end of the pool yet. 🙂

        1. I wish I could invite you this weekend to taste Korean food… Why are you so far away????
          (Koreans will kill me for this but Korean cuisine is, to simplify things a lot, like the Japanese, but with lots of garlic, chili and sesame. In short Japanese cuisine with very strong flavours).
          I know that the oils I keep several months never spoil even after opening, not to mention soy sauce (I use the dark soy sauce very rarely), vinegar or mirin. I do keep peanut butter and sesame paste in the fridge though because I really use them very rarely… (Though recently with the Sichuanese cuisine, I started to use them more!). I once had a problem with a Chinese chili oil I forgot for two years…
          In general I have noticed that, apart from meat and seafood of course, I don’t pay as much attention to expiry dates, keeping stuff in the fridge etc.. I have been doing this since I remember (I never put oil in the fridge or vinegar or soy sauce) and not only haven’t observed any weird changes, but i have never been ill contrary to most of my friends who are fussy with expiry dates, keep everything in the fridge and who get food intoxication quite often. I suppose my organism can stand everything with all the bacteria it gets regularly 😉 and I’m sure there is some truth in it…

          1. I wish I lived closer as well. 🙂

            When my nephew came over to take care of me and inventoried my fridge so he knew what to go shopping for he pitched a lot of things (condiments mostly) which were past their expiry date. I’d never had a problem with them myself but he was horrified that I still had them in my fridge.

            And he bought me generic ketchup!! **I** was horrified.

            1. I had a friend who used to throw away sugar… when it was past its expiry date… I have had sesame paste in my fridge for over a year, pas its expiry date and it’s still delicious and not dangerous from what I observe.
              I think I got bolder when I realised how long my own, home preserves keep after opening. If I leave an open jam in the fridge, it can stay more than a month without any change in taste, colour etc.. It’s similar for sweet chilli jellies and hot sauces (some are open for months!) and I don’t use any preserving agents. Only old vinegar, sugar and of course hot water bath to close the jars.

    1. Thanks a lot, Martyna. Cucumber kimchi is still my favourite, the Chinese cabbage and daikon are staples, but the celery is the most unusual.

  13. Sissi, I love cabbage kimchi, so I would certainly love celery kimchi, since I love to munch on celery sticks, dipped in ranch, or bleu cheese dressing. I see you’ve discovered how delicious celery could be, raw, as well as cooked, and its so healthy and delicious…especially the way you made the spicy kimchi sauce which I love so much:)

    1. Thanks a lot, Elisabeth. I am slowly discovering the celery (it’s not very popular in many countries in Europe and especially eaten raw).

  14. My Korean painting teacher introduced me to Kimchi a couple of years ago and since then I’m hooked! I have a problem with spicy (hot) food – bummer I know 🙁 – so I have to choose carefully when I eat it and suffer the consequences but it is so worth it! When I get my kitchen back the first thing I’ll make will be one of your kimchi recipes!!!!

    1. Hi Maria. Unless you have health problems, hot food is a question of habit (as far as my and my husband’s experience goes). I have been eating hot food since I was a child (I remember I was always attracted to chili powder and sprinkled it everywhere) and during the years my hot food resistance increases.
      I have noticed on the other hand that some ready-made hot sauces (for example harissa) are very violent and difficult to digest, no matter how hot they are. I hope that making your own kimchi you will enjoy the scarce chili amount you can add.

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